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Sudden Flare-Up of Heart Failure

Symptoms of sudden heart failure

Sometimes your symptoms may get worse very quickly. This is called sudden heart failure or a flare-up. It causes fluid to build up in your lungs, causing congestion. (This is why the problem is often called congestive heart failure.) Symptoms may include:

  • Severe shortness of breath.
  • An irregular or fast heartbeat.
  • Coughing up foamy, pink mucus.

Sudden heart failure is an emergency. You need care right away.

Recommended Related to Heart Failure

Understanding Heart Failure -- Symptoms

The symptoms of heart failure can be related to the pooling of fluid in the body or can be secondary to decreased blood flow to the body. Some people with heart failure don't experience symptoms, but here are some of the more common signs: Shortness of breath with exercise or difficulty breathing at rest or when lying down Swollen legs, ankles, or abdomen Dry, hacking cough, or wheezing Other symptoms may include: Fatigue, palpitations, or pain during normal activities Weig...

Read the Understanding Heart Failure -- Symptoms article > >

A flare-up is different than heart failure that gets worse slowly. With a flare-up, your symptoms change much more quickly. It may happen if you have a high-salt meal, forget your medicines, get an irregular heartbeat, or have a problem like anemia, an infection, or a fever.

You may have to stay in the hospital to fix the problem. Some flare-ups may take several days to control.

After treatment, your symptoms will probably go back to the way they were before the flare-up.

Treatment for a flare-up

When you arrive at the hospital or emergency room, the doctor will prescribe medicines such as diuretics, nitrates, and/or morphine. These will help you breathe more easily and control your pain or anxiety. You also may get oxygen.

Your doctor may order exams, such as a stress test, EKG/ECG, or echocardiogram. These tests will let the doctor know how well your heart is working.

Your doctor will try to find the cause of your flare-up and treat it. For example, you may have eaten a salty meal the night before that caused your body to hold onto extra water and make your symptoms worse. Or the cause may be harder to find.

After the flare-up is controlled, your doctor may change the doses or types of medicine you take.

In some cases, you may go from the hospital to a rehabilitation (or rehab) center. The staff members are specially trained to support people with heart failure. They can help you with diet and lifestyle changes.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology
Last Revised August 5, 2010

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 05, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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